After Arnold Bennett's death Virginia Woolf, who had disagreed violently with him in years before, wrote in her diary (entry of Saturday 28 March 1931):

Arnold Bennett died last night; which leaves me sadder than I should have supposed. A lovable genuine man: impeded, somehow a little awkward in life; well meaning; ponderous; kindly; coarse; knowing he was coarse; dimly floundering and feeling for something else; glutted with success; wounded in his feelings; avid; thicklipped; prosaic intolerably; rather dignified; set upon writing; yet always taken in; deluded by splendour and success; but naive; an old bore; an egotist; much at the mercy of life for all his competence; a shopkeeper's view of literature; yet with the rudiments, covered over with fat and prosperity and the desire for hideous Empire furniture; of sensibility. Some real understanding power, as well as a gigantic absorbing power. These are the sorts of things that I think by fits and starts this morning, as I sit journalising; I remember his determination to write 1,000 words daily; and how he trotted off to do it that night, and feel some sorrow that now he will never sit down and begin methodically covering his regulation number of pages in his workmanlike beautiful but dull hand. Queer how one regrets the dispersal of anybody who seemed – as I say – genuine: who had direct contact with life – for he abused me; and yet I rather wished him to go on abusing me; and me abusing him. An element in life – even in mine that was so remote – taken away. This is what one minds.

Woolf is more than a little self-revealing in her "How does this death affect me?" appraisal of Bennett. Perhaps as Margaret Drabble speculates in Arnold Bennett: A Biography (Chapter 15, "The End", and elsewhere) there is an unconscious class issue behind the perception of Bennett by those who "... had never known poverty, and who could not discern Bennett's passionate yearning for fraternity and joy and opportunity for all." Drabble goes on to quote Rebecca West, who observed in The Telegraph:

All London will miss him, and some Londoners will miss him very bitterly. For he abounded in kindliness; and it was to be noted that some of his closest friends were men who had no other friends. His rich understanding of human nature enabled him to bridge gulfs that others could not.

(cf. HisOwnLight (20 Oct 2005), PaulineSmith (14 Dec 2005), VastInjustice (13 Jan 2006), UnenviableHappiness (27 Feb 2006), ...)

TopicBennett - TopicLiterature - TopicProfiles - TopicLife - 2006-03-08

(correlates: ArborAvis, UnenviableHappiness, OppositeAttractions, ...)